The Commons: The daring Mr. Harper

It’s as if he’s taunting his detractors. Mocking their outrage.

Stephen Harper would rather not be here.

“We didn’t want this election,” he pleads. “We wanted to be in Parliament, working.”

He says this or something like this in a ballroom in Mississauga, a gymnasium in Campbell River, a backyard Saanich, a college in Sault Ste Marie and an Italian community hall in Windsor. He says he wishes he was back in Ottawa and back in Parliament so that he could be getting back to the important business of minding the tenuous economic recovery. He says this again and again.

Here Stephen Harper seems to ask only that you disregard—or remain entirely unaware of—recent events, and bow in total deference to what he is saying to you now.

Never mind that two and a half years ago he had Parliament dissolved, flouting his own government’s apparently flimsy attempt to limit a Prime Minister’s ability to do so. Never mind that after that election—as a recession set in—he had Parliament prorogued so he might avoid defeat on an imminent confidence vote. Never mind that a year after that he had Parliament prorogued again—this time so he could have more time to have his picture taken watching hockey games with Wayne Gretzky—and that Canada was thus left without a functioning House of Commons for nearly three months as it proceeded with the aforementioned and still-fragile recovery.

Never mind that he is here now, campaigning for re-election, because last month his government became the first in the history of British democracy to be found in contempt of the House of Commons.

For all of these reasons and various other examples as well, Mr. Harper is often accused of abusing the institutions of Parliament, of disrespecting the formal levers of our democracy and of holding the House of Commons in disdain. And so here he stands in front of his fellow citizens and professes that there is no other place he’d rather be. It is as if he is taunting his detractors. Daring them to call him on it. Mocking their outrage.

***

He is not creating alternate realities, he is simply daring enough to breeze past any assertion of reality which does not serve his purposes. He is looking you in the eye, shrugging and moving on. He is entirely undaunted by his own record of words and actions.

Maybe this is a requirement for the modern politician. Maybe Mr. Harper is just better at it than any of his rivals. He is, for sure, a man who refuses to be engaged on anything but his own terms. He regularly, for instance, arrives later than scheduled to his public events.

All campaigns create kinds of bubbles—the constant movement deadening the brain and reducing everything else to a blur in your periphery—but Mr. Harper’s possesses the unique feel of a travelling television program. He goes to his mark and he delivers his lines. The props department ensures a sufficient number of children are positioned around him. Wardrobe makes sure he has his Team Canada jacket on. Young production assistants walk around with earpieces, pausing every so often to speak seriously into their shirtsleeves. There is a certain edge of precision to it. Maybe, again, he is simply better at this than any of his rivals. Surely all campaigns are artifice. But his feels so finely choreographed, so exacting, that around it you find yourself worrying about standing in the wrong spot or straying somewhere you shouldn’t. (Indeed, those young production assistants are quick to correct if you do.)

Very little of it seems done for the benefit of anyone watching in person. It is almost entirely for the cameras—for whoever might be watching on CPAC or YouTube, for whatever might make the evening news. At rallies—surrounded by people who, by virtue of their admittance, have almost all assuredly made up their minds to vote for his party’s candidate on May 2—he stands in the middle of the room, trying to look casual and pretending not to read his remarks from a large teleprompter screen positioned ten feet in front of him. He is not particularly rousing or lofty. This is an infomercial and in a pleading tone he begs you to buy his “strong, stable, national, majority government” that will keep your taxes low. In a complex world, he is a man of simple notions. Amid so much conflict and incoherence, he is reliably straightforward and resolute. Tax cuts are good. The coalition is bad. Canada is awesome. He is stability and strength and principle and patriotism. All else is chaos and disaster. Anything else will imperil everything you hold dear. Those who oppose him oppose old ladies and volunteer firefighters.

The audience is here to wave signs and applaud. They are here to further the illusion that this is something other than a taped television advert. He insists on leading the crowd in a wordy chant—”Conservatives say yes, without raising taxes”—and in those moments, he becomes Sam Popeil hawking the Ronco rotisserie. Just set it and forget it.

For 15 minutes each day, Mr. Harper gives himself over to a kind of uncertainty. But even this—the time set aside each morning for questions from members of the press—is tightly accounted for. Reporters from national outlets travelling with Mr. Harper are, as a group, permitted a total of four questions each day. Surrounded by supporters, each of Mr. Harper’s answers are dutifully applauded. Crucially, no attempts to follow up on an answer are allowed. Thus, Mr. Harper enjoys wide latitude to simply talk around subjects he’d rather avoid. He is discipline personified and he will give no life to undesirable stories. And with the press, addled on Twitter, unwilling to dwell on anything for more than 48 hours (if that), he has proceeded steadily through this campaign, through half a dozen scandals of varying relevance, without so much as a dip in his party’s standing.

***

He does not shy from bold assertions—or at least assertions that might seem bold to anyone stubborn enough to quibble over the details.

In his pitch for the cameras, he talks ominously of global danger beyond our shores and warns of chaos at home if he is not re-elected with a majority government. Three years ago it was Stéphane Dion’s carbon tax that was going to plunge the country into recession. Somehow we ended up there anyway.

He laments that the country has been subject to so many general elections in recent times—four votes in the last seven years—never minding that he precipitated half of those. He worries that another minority government and another election soon thereafter could do grievous harm to the country, even if, by his own reckoning, the country is presently the closest thing the world has to an island of security and stability despite those four elections and these seven years of minority government.

Though he once speculated that an alliance of parties could unite to defeat and replace a Liberal minority government and though he once worked with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois to threaten Paul Martin’s minority government, that an arrangement of other parties might work together to defeat and replace a Conservative minority government of his is now spoken of as an unholy and undemocratic option.

Once he may have promised never to run a deficit, but now only he can lead the country back to balance.

Once he may have dismissed the country as a sad, second-rate joke, but now he is the ultimate Canadian, the courageous warrior who lives and breathes only for the Maple Leaf. (He may moan that he’d rather not be here, but he still managed to have thousands of signs printed up with his name on one side and the name of the country on the other, the two words having recently been declared interchangeable.)

Most of this is delivered in a tone that suggests a begging for reason. Come now, Mr. Harper pleads, let us be reasonable.*

***

Consider that when Mr. Harper was finally moved to apologize for the ejection of various individuals from his campaign events, he did so only in the hypothetical sense.

Consider that when a television interviewer, afforded a rare opportunity to press Mr. Harper on a particular matter, tried repeatedly to coax him into acknowledging, at the risk of undermining part of his argument against a coalition, one of the basic principles of the Westminster system under which this country has functioned for nearly 150 years, Mr. Harper said could only be compelled to say that the point debatable.

He is unrelenting in this way. Undaunted. Maybe it is a requirement of the modern politician. Maybe, again, he is simply better at it than his rivals. He is undoubtedly excellent at it. He concedes nothing. No matter how much you shout.

When a television reporter, unsatisfied with the response to a question he had posed after one event last week, dared to direct a supplementary question at Mr. Harper, the Conservative partisans around the Prime Minister rose up to drown out the journalist with cheers. (Among the most enthusiastic applauders was a member of the Prime Minister’s staff—a senior advisor apparently hired both for his ability to forcefully put his hands together and his eagerness to defend the boss from any assertion of unapproved reality.) The reporter kept shouting and the crowd grew louder. The reporter persisted and the crowd stood and began to chant Mr. Harper’s name.

Mr. Harper simply stood there, in the middle of it all, waiting for the man to give up.

*An addendum. His appeal is unquestionably not without its appeal. Minority government seemed like a good idea at the time, but majority rule does have its comparative advantages. (For one, it would conceivably compel the press gallery to do something other than speculate about the timing and context of the next election.) Paying less in taxes almost always sounds great. Canada is indisputably a fine country. If you have no particular quibble with any of the other stuff, there are ideals here to vote for. Especially if you’re still disgusted by what the Liberal Party of Canada did when it was in government.




Browse

The Commons: The daring Mr. Harper

  1. A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles.

    It is true that in the mean time we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war & long oppressions of enormous public debt.

    Thomas Jefferson
    —Philadelphia, June 4, 1798

    • There is no way, no way, that Thomas Jefferson made an apostrophe error.

      I call BS… :)

    • What is this garbage? Are you suggesting that the way the anti-Harper crowd feels today has been felt in previous times by other anti-whoever crowds? That simply can't be, because Harper is the first one ever to act this way! Right!?!

      • When any govt appeals to the basest parts of human nature, and lies to them openly while spending their money on foolishness and self-aggrandizement…then we have entered a Dark Age….a time when people believed in witches.

        Emily.

        • Whatever. At the end of the day, those types of accusations are just tired and not constructive. Guess what Emily, during Chretien's reign, people were saying the exact same thing. Guess what else, during Mulroney's reign, the same tired accusations were being hurled. Don't even get me started on Trudeau.

          The point is that there is always a segment of the population that feels in some way offended by the current government and the supporters of the current government. The difference in the current situation is that that segment of the populate can b!tch and complain to the entire world, instead of only to their circle of friends. (And yes, it goes the other way too, in that there is always a segment of the population that is hyper partisan in its support of the current government, and they too get to spout their nonsense to the world).

          • For all their supposed political faults, Chretien, Mulroney and Trudeau weren't remotely like Harper.

            In case you haven't noticed, this is not an election of 'business as usual'.

            This is a unique situation….a time of witches.

          • LIke I said the other day, You have truly jumped the shark. I can see you now, sitting at your keyboard, a glazed look in your eyes, mumbling to yourself like Linda Hunt in "A year of living dangerously" What then must we do? What then must we do? over and over again, before throwing yourself off a tall building.

          • You have overdosed on eye of newt….go lie down.

  2. Personally I think Harper is in a case of denial. He has put up a one man dog and pony show through out his tenure and his elected MLA's are simply warming chairs.

    It is a Conservative play book effort. Think here Alberta where Conservatives don't even show up for debates. Harper is saying if you are 50 feet away and don't have a real question I will talk with you.

    • Harpers candidates don't show up for debates anywhere. It's not just in Alberta.

  3. Is it any wonder that "contempt" was the reason his government fell?

    • Yes…it's quite debatable actually…;)

  4. Well, in about a week, we'll know if Canadians are smart enough to see through the Slap Chop salesman. Whatever happened to him, by the way?

    • Prison I think.

    • Vince? Aside from cheap, plastic, semi-handy gizmos, he's making nothing but money. He's richer than Croesus. And coming up with more ways to be increasingly so. Don't know how he votes, though.

    • This is exactly the kind of sentiment, by the way, that only causes Harper's supporters to not take you seriously. Even chief cheer leader Wherry was able to add an addendum in his piece where he began to work out that there is some reasonableness in voting Con. You going around framing the question in terms of smart enough or not is ridiculous.

      By the way, it is difficult to know who you are referring to. The Con supporters who have yet to see a real scandal that is as serious as the one that ended up toppling the Liberals, after they had spent 13 years doing what you are now saying the Cons have been doing for 5 years. Or the left voters, who are you united in their hatred of Harper (remember that 60 percent of Canadians don't what that guy – which, by the way, is a ridiculous statement on a number of fronts), but are simply too dumb to vote strategically in their ridings to get rid of the guy.

      Listen, Harper may get a majority here. The way that he performs in that majority will determine whether the Cons get elected again, or whether the Libs will be resurrected and taken seriously again. And here's a news flash for you: spending some billions of dollars over 40 years for some jets that we are going to buy regardless will not cripple our economy. Here's another news flash: Harper will not implement an American style health care system where some people simply can't get health care because they don't have enough money.

      For your consideration:
      http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,6931749

      And no, I don't think one government committing a scandal is justification for another government to commit a scandal, but I tend to be more of a realist than anything else, for better or worse.

  5. Was everyone born yesterday? How are the machinations Wherry describes of Harper, and his campaign, any different than any other successful politician for the last several centuries?

    Sure, "it was done in the past" is no excuse, but what precisely is the impetus to change? Is the pressure coming from we the public? Outside of a few Facebook groups and this board, no, not really.

    P.S. Aaron, I don't know if you've checked the polls, but you're not going to be working for a Liberal government for some time. So I'd keep that F-You letter to Ken Whyte in your desk for time being.

    • Harper does appear to have taken the irreality of politics to new levels, including pretending the rules of parliament simply don't exist if he doesn't acknowledge them. There's a real danger things will get worse, not better, if Canadians don't show their disapproval.

        • You responded to a valid point about Harper and his supporters' treatment of parliamentary democracy with a partisan forum listing grievances. Not convincing.

          • Slow down Steve. Take a deep breath. Okay…

            Mike T. suggested that Harper has descended to new levels of disregard, disdain, and yes, contempt for parliament. This is a common narrative, which is not popular to oppose, but I oppose it nonetheless. The link is just a starting point for your consideration about the long list of disregard, disdain, and contempt, though not official contempt because they held a majority, for parliament of a previous government.

            I do my best to remain a realist in this debate. It seems clear to me that something about our system encourages this unfortunate kind of behaviour. I very much hope JL does not become PM, because I don't want to see his great optimism stained by the reality of actually governing; it would simply be too sad a sight to see. I favour parliamentary and democratic reform, as a step toward changing this. Barring that, I generally agree with and support the CPC platform more than any of the other platforms, and that combined with the fact that I consider my local CPC candidate the strongest of those running in my riding, makes me a supporter of Harper.

            The fact that people like me exist really angers some others, and that is fine. To be honest, I wish the NDP and LPC would get over it and unite already, as I think that would be a positive thing for Canadian politics, at least for the next little while anyway.

          • Fair points all round

            I should have been more specific in my response about parliament. I was referring to Mike T's point that "Harper has taken the irreality of politics to a new level" – reflected, in part, in some persons' convictions that this is an "invalid" election because it is for "selfish reasons." Or flatly lying about what happened in parliament, such as saying the government fell on a budget vote rather than because they were found in contempt.

            Of my own principle concerns:
            -its muzzling of civil servants, who should work for Canadians not political branding organizations.

            -the disregard for evidence-based policy making in favour of emotive claims to pseudo-libertarianism and order in the census and prison-building respectively.

            -the agreements made between Jim Flaherty, Goldman Sachs, AIG and other criminal elements from Wall St from 2006 to 2008. These individuals believe in a form of market fundamentalism that IMO is frankly dangerous. I believe that Canada weathered the recession better than the United States because our institutions for redistributing wealth to stabilize economic activity are more successful. The new (old) game the world is facing is stabilizing an inherently unstable financial economy and the best way to do this is refashioning the twentieth-century social state tool box as argued by "Post-Keynesian" economists such as Hyman Minksy. We should be improving this infrastructure, and frankly, I have no faith in this government to do that.

    • Rather different, I think. Certainly the orchestration isn't very different in kind. But the limitation of questions, for instance, is different in degree.
      The biggest difference, though, at least for Canadian politics, is the determination to say, repeat, and refuse ever to retract, claims which are not just lies but which are completely counter to the established record of fact. It used to be that the game of misleading people in politics was about emphasis and omission–you would avoid saying anything that a fact check might show not to be true. More recently it's become common for politicians, particularly on the right, to lie outright–but in Canada, until now that has been reserved to lies about things that are little known and hard to fact check, things that would maybe require a FOI request and time and luck to actually be refuted.
      Stephen Harper is lying flat out about things which are in first year university, maybe even high school, textbooks and, when caught, simply repeating himself, feeling with some justice that his lies can successfully out-publicize the truth to a strong enough plurality of Canadians to get him elected. This is unprecedented in Canada, although since the Bush years it has become a common technique among US Republicans.

      • Our local CBC morning show (Quebec AM) featured a phone interview with Lawrence Cannon. In passing he said that the decision to buy the F35s was the result of a tendering process.

        Yes, the Conservatives have moved from the traditional omission and spin and into the realm of the bold-faced lie.

        • Well, it's technically true. The government sent an order to Lockheed Martin and they responded by tendering a price. Think of LM as a "preferred contractor".

        • Silly Canadians. Consequences are for Liberals!

  6. Pinch me …

    • Oh, you said pinch

      My apologies… :)

    • Saying Harper is a king would imply the PM has no real power, just like the Queen has no real power. I think the correct definition would be a dictator.

  7. While his minions were shouting down the reporter, he was standing there looking down at his feet like a coward.

  8. There is another term frequently used to describe the personality traits of Harper outlined in your article: SOCIOPATH.

  9. A damning indictment … and all true.

  10. Those who forced this election for "selfish reasons" will pay the price.
    Should I bid "Iggy" a Bon-voyage now, or when the fun is over.

    • You are so right and we all know HARPER forced this election! It was timed to take advantage of Fox News North which he thought would take him to a majority but he forgot one crucual point and that is we are CANADIANS not Americans! Damn!

      • Get real! Pray tell how Harper forced the election; I must have been watching another channel when I saw the BQ, the Libs and the NDP all vote in favour of a motion of no confidence,

        Incidentally, the Blacktop on twitter is not me; I am Blacktop11

        • Hey, you have to understand Liberals, like Wherry, are watching the death of their party so let them have one last tantrum

        • Harper and his minions earned that ruling of contempt and more by refusing to provide justification for their budgetting numbers to Parliament. I would also consider them guilty of contempt on several issues: Oda lying to Parliament, Harper refusing to release the documents about Afghan detainees being tortured, and Harper proroguing like a coward to avoid an election.

        • Yes, I agree you were watching the wrong channel. PM_SHrug engineered this whole thing for months. His absolute refusal to respond to requests for information from the opposition went on for months, years. He steadily eroded the ability of the opposition to hold the government to account, to the point where they really had no other option than to vote him down. So, technically, the opposition voted no confidence in the government, but it was the very thing PM_SHrug was begging for all along. They just gave him what he wanted. Now he's looking to US to give him w hat he wants – unfettered power to rule without regard to Parliament or any democratic checks and balances.

          Will we be mad enough to give it to him?

          • You are wrong, and you are still a child.

          • Is this the best response you can muster "you are wrong and you are still a child". Maybe you should have taken a page from Harpers playbook and just looked down at your feet while and stayed quiet while the conservative supporters chant your name.

          • Sorry David, I should have explained. I consider Mr. Westgate a child because he is incapable of talking about Harper without calling him a name. I also consider people who write LIEberals children. Thanks for your concern though.

  11. Yep, pretty stunning to see it all in one spot like that. The line that struck me was " In a complex world, he is a simple man of simple notions."

    We need engagement, substance, bravery, passion, debate, disagreement…not someone willing to use the levers of power to quash dissent, fear-monger, eliminate civil society groups with whom he disagrees, suspension of parliament, firing of civil servants, troops arresting peaceful protestors, contempt of parliament, intentional disruption of committees, punitive measures everywhere, bullying tactics….the list is a long one. Vote strategically.

  12. Mr Coyne, you are the editor of this "venerable" rag. Why do you not clean it up? IMHO, this sort of poisonous drivel enlightens no-one and shouts to the world the puerility of your magazine.

    • That was you shouting at the rally, wasn't it?

    • Whatever. It's good writing. You may not agree with it, but it is good. And since Mr. Coyne is the national editor, one must assume that he also agrees. Not with IT, but that IT is good writing. As Coyne is unlikely to have ascended to his perch by suppressing things he may not agree with, it's likely he'll seek his own counsel in the matter.

      As for puerility, isn't it really only children who shriek and wail against thoughts, speech or actions that don't break their way?

      • It's f*cking terrible writing. It's basically talking points straight from the Liberal Party of Canada War Room. Get real.

        • Given your stylistic preference of brevity in pursuit of wit, you coulda just said, 'Get real, assh*le'. The effect would've been equally powerful!

          • So I take it you don't dispute the fact that Wherry's post is tantamount to rehashed talking points from the LPC War Room. It's nice that we agree about that.

        • Which parts are wrong?

          • For one, the implied idea that the Liberal rallies, by contrast, are anything but full of partisan supporters is patently untrue, and simply demonstrates Wherry's inability to see through his bias. I went to one, and the place reeked of partisanship. Similarly, all the ways that Wherry disparages Con rallies by describing how finely orchestrated they were, Lib rallies are exactly the same. Iggy may not use a teleprompter (Oh my Gosh! He' doesn't use a teleprompter! This man is definitely the best leader we have!) but his message is exactly the same night in and night out as well. Oh yeah, there was one night he added a Rise Up bit, but then that became part of the regularly scheduled program as well. Lib rallies also have the young people with ear pieces talking into their James Bond watches.

          • You went to an Ignatieff rally and were not booted out? Proof that he doesn't screen people, right?

          • I also went to a Harper rally and was not screened. Proof that he doesn't screen people, right?

          • You're probably in their database as someone who can be expected to cheer every lie Harper tells.

      • These guys support free speech except when someone is criticizing them.

  13. AW sounds almost as unhinged as the Harper hating Liberal "journalists" stalking the PM around the campaign trail. Comic relief during an election is a good thing though, and nothing is funnier then a poopy pants Liberal "reporter's" impotence at not being able to control the narrative, and set the agenda. Desperation, impotence, and frustration can, it seems, be quite funny.

    • Journalists are not the only people that hate Harper. 70% of canadians hate Harper! Even his own hate Harper. Who leaked the 500 page Tom Flannigan harmful Harper comments this week? A Con thats who!

  14. "…Mr. Harper's possesses the unique feel of a travelling television program."

    When I see those dead eyes of his, I wonder if we're not watching an episode of Dexter. Then I realize that Dexter lives by a set of principles, and I wish Canada were so lucky as to have him in charge rather than this guy.

    • There you have it. Harper is worse than a serial killer. More high-road stuff from opposition supporters.

      • A sense of decency would be nice, though…

        • Like I said, way to stay on the high road. It speaks volumes.

          • Dude, our PM is lying to out faces. Calling a spade a spade isn't falling below the level of acceptable discourse.

      • Well, worse than a fictional serial killer (which after all is the best type).

      • I stand by it. Anybody who can so shamelessly trash our democracy doesn't deserve respect.

  15. Thank you, Aaron for the article. It is so sad to think that the Conservative Party led by such an unscrupulous man could once again form our government.

  16. Hey, Aaron:

    Instead of misrepresenting Harper, why don't you get back to misrepresenting other people's actual journalism in order to make your Liberal patrons look good?

    (See here: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/08/31/somewhere-step… )

    But maybe that's unfair: maybe when you see a story you just ignore things in it that don't fit your pre-determined Liberal-shilling narrative; maybe you honestly don't see them – maybe you just can't see anything which cuts against your grain; maybe you don't mind being less accountable for your actual distortions and manipulations than you allege Harper is for his; maybe that helps you sleep at night. Either way, Wherry, you're still a hack.

    • Which parts are wrong? Feel free to itemize the "misinterpretations".

      • They don't need to be "itemized", because there is only one, which also just happens to be the whole premise of Wherry's post, namely, that Lomborg had changed his position such as to come around to Wherry's position. As anyone who actually read the article that Wherry misleadingly quotes could see – .e.g., numerous people in the comment thread on that post – that is not what happened at all. Lomborg did not "come around" to the Dion position. Wherry just used selective out-of-context quotes to make it appear otherwise. Go and do what Wherry never did for yourself: read the actual material, or just the comment thread on the post. But then if you still haven't figured out what the problem is, then your problems run a lot deeper than doing so will solve. There is no cure for willful blindness.

  17. Wow. Aaron, I haven't been a fan of your writing since Ignatieff moved in, but this is a great work. I think this is the best you've done on this subject, and I say that as a very conservative Canadian.

  18. I'm afraid the media has become a victim of its own success when it comes to the various "outrages" (some justified, others not) that have been attributed to the Prime Minister and the Conservatives. As Wherry alludes to, how can any single cause of concern be studied at length when the Twitter and Facebook brigades demand something new and exciting to discuss every five minutes. It all becomes noise, and people tune out.

    Harper is a good politician, whether you like him or not. He polarizes people, just like Trudeau did thirty years ago, but I suspect Trudeau (and all politicians up until about 15 years ago) was under a lot less media scrutiny relative to today's world. Even twenty years ago, people read the newspaper, watched the evening news, and maybe listened to a news radio program in the car. News had to be filtered, with only the juiciest bits making the cut.

    Today, anything and everything, no matter how inconsequential, is disseminated with the aid of the internet. Consumers of news have to filter the "data" themselves, and when it all becomes too chaotic, they switch off the idiot boxes and move on to something more interesting. Commentators like Wherry, with their multiple stories per day, only compound the problem. Most of the information is superfluous, and it almost always boils down to the same point: Wherry, Milewski and Co. don't like the Conservatives. Which is fine if you want to repeatedly consume stories which sound like they came out of the Liberal or NDP campaign offices, but I think Wherry would be better off emulating his Maclean colleagues, like Coyne and Wells, who are actually capable of providing a balanced perspective.

    • Amen.

    • Milewski is actually a top-notch reporter who was just as hard on Chretien as he is on Harper, and has done a lot of other outstanding work also. More importantly, his work isn't about just putting another brick in the wall of the Harper-hater echo chamber in Wherry's style. Milewski is actually looking out for the public interest, which is why his stories can and have had real political impact.

      • Fair enough re: Milewski. I will admit that he annoys me personally, as he has a tendency to monopolize the time for asking questions (at least during this campaign anyway) by combining two or three questions into his "monologue", and then complaining later that he only got to ask "one" question. Perhaps his journalism has done the public a great service, but his attitude I could do without. But I will concede that my comparison of Wherry and Milewski may be a bit unfair.

        • Milewski is definitely a real journalist and very diligent and hard-working. However, that thing that happened at APEC a few years ago (calling one side the "forces of evil/darkness" (sic) in a private email to a partisan source) was extremely improper and unprofessional of him.

          I agree though that compared to Wherry he's Woodward, Bernstein and Edward R. Murrow wrapped into one package. Wherry is a partisan hack masquerading as a journalist.

    • I agree with what you have written Anders.

    • Some of you must be too young to remember Milewski going after Chretien.

  19. Oh, what the heck, repost:

    Stephen Harper lies a lot and cannot count. Canadians feel confident in him.
    Jack Layton doesn't lie a lot but cannot count. Canadians feel warm and fuzzy towards him.
    Gilles Duceppe doesn't lie a lot and only has to count for one Province. Canadians like him but hate that he's a seperatist.
    Michael Ignatieff doesn't lie and appears able to count. Canadians don't want to hear it from him.

    • That's pretty well it in a nutshell.

      • When asked what they want from politicians, Canadians often say they want less divisiveness and more cooperative solutions. They say they want a politician to get out of Ottawa and get to see and hear from Canadians across the country — no scripts and sets, just talk and listen. They say they want politicians who are realistic enough to balance business and economic requirements with social welfare needs. They want to hear less about the 24-hour news cycle and short-term electioneering and more about what it takes to build a country we can safely grow old in and that will give our kids and grandkids a chance to prosper.

        Then they punish the poor fool who actually does it. We really are duplicitous masochists.

        • Post of the Thread, Day, etc.

          • Yeah, that must be it—–those stupid, ungrateful Canadians.
            It looks they are rejecting the opportunity to be ruled by the man of the people—Iggy.

            C`mon guys—When you see the people jump clear over the Big Liberal Tent into the arms of Jack, then you must be able to see that the real problem is with the LPC—-especially their behavior the last 5 years.
            And yes, part of that poor decision making the last 5 years was the recruitment and appointment of Iggy as leader.

            The ultimate desire for a return to power instead of a populist, principled party was just too transparent. Many of the centrist voters will either vote CPC or park their vote with the Dippers, because the Libs do not offer a credible alternative.

    • I think you've hit on the real reason his enemies call him "the Count".

      • Honesty and numeracy are not desired traits these days.

        • The only numeracy Iggy should be concerned about is the number of Lib MP`s on May 3rd.

  20. Wherry is becoming bitter. Quite sad, really, in a young man.

    • I know!

    • This is one of the best things I've ever read of his, and I say that as someone who generally appreciates his writing. So if this is bitterness, I selfishly wish him more.

  21. Wherry is much more charming when he's on his knees, mouth open, covering Iggy's next glorious pronouncement….

    • Interesting construction. Though it does make a reader wonder how partisans such as yourself prefer Mr. Harper's pronouncements.

      • Perhaps it's more like that campy horror film, The Human Centipede.

        • Nasty. But nice one noob.

  22. What a well written article. To bad every Canadian will not get to read this because it really puts Harper into perspective.

    • The basic taking points covered in this article have been the opositions talking points for months. Every Canadian who reads papers or who watches TV news has had a steady diet of similar crapola for nearly five years. A significant percentage of us are actively tuning out the messanger because it is so appallinglly one sided. It is lke the left are flat earthers who have been presented with proof the earth is an orb but refuse to accept the evidence before their eyes. Every nation that adopts the left's economics is a failed or failing state. We have a chance to position Canada as one of the pre-eminent nations in the world, or we have a chance to waste an historic opportunity and elect yet another government of idealistic incompetants who think their personal PollyAnna world view will yield any harvest but the abject failure it has been everywhere else. People elsewhere don't want our goodwill, they want our standard of living and our resources. If they have to destroy us to get what we have they will…at least that's a fairly accurate summary of the last three thousand year of geo-politics.

  23. An insightful article…it needs to be broadcast far and wide via social media (FB or Twitter) during these final days; neither of which I have. Other hands need to take up and pass the flaming torch….

  24. This is an extraordinarily well written and poignant piece. You have distilled the reasons for the disquiet felt by those who do not support the contemptuous attitude towards transparency and truth of the current Government led by Harper without ever veering into the partisan territory of advocating a particular opposition vote. I wish that your insistence on speaking truth was more widely emulated.

  25. Shout Out, do you really mean, Rise Up?

  26. Aaron, I admire your courage in posting these observations, which some may think compromise your 'objectivity'.

    • Most of us realize that Aaron wouldn't recognize objectivity if it bit him in the nose.

    • Wherry is indeed capable of writing excellent objective pieces, such as his State of the House of Commons rant from a few months back. But I do wish he'd shred the Liberals once in a while just to quiet those shrill partisan voices who feel the need to comment on every one of his blog posts.

      • Hard when they're in opposition and offering fairly reasonable stuff. I await judgment until they form the government.

      • What on earth makes you think it'd quiet them? At best they'd call it "finally some fair journalism" until his very next article. More likely they'd call it pandering in an attempt to fool them.

        • Oh please…are you guys really pretending that you don't do exactly the same thing.

  27. This election was pointless, except now the Liberals are even more irrelevant than ever.

  28. Wherry has lost any licence he had as an unaligned observer, which a reporter is supposed to be. As a columnist he is not acting as an analyst but an antagonist. and spin artist – spin against.

    • Not exactly a novel observation. Did you only start reading Maclean's today?

    • an unaligned observer, which a reporter is supposed to be

      Like Mike Duffy Senator Mike Duffy?

      • Brian Lilley?

  29. The fact that the Conservatives are the only party you can be sure is against the cap and trade or carbon tax wealth redistribution scams should show every Canadian out there that they're the only party still living in reality.

    • I think you just inadvertently demonstrated exactly what Wherry was writing about. And with so many fewer words. Well done!

  30. Seriously? regardless of stripes, have you ever seen someone so blatantly lie day in & day out straight to your face the way Stephen Harper does?.

    I helped vote this thing into power & am completely blown away ever time I see a clip of his fear mongering campaign each & every day of this campaign, its unbelievable, literally!.

    I've voted Conservative, PC, NDP & Liberal over my years so please don't assume I'm just an ABC person, I'm not. but this guy is by far the lowest of the low I've ever seen, straight out of the American playbook of say anything to scare people into following you, regardless of TRUTH & HONOR.

    I find it just sickening as a proud Canadian.

    • Oh good grief.. can we all just can the reposts, people?

      At least put a bit of a different spin on it.

    • Yeah, I went to Iggy's rally, and he kept saying something about Harper wanting to destroy our democracy, and once he even said destroy our country. I think he even continues to peddle some line about smart Canadians will vote Liberal.

      Yep, sure no fear mongering there.

  31. Much to the chagrin of the 'mainstream' media those pesky taxpayers keep coming out to vote and keep the socialists hordes outside the gates. Guess what, gonna happen again. I wasn't gonna vote at all but, thanks, to the rabid, left wing media I have now had a bellyful alnd am going to add my support to Mr. Harper.

    • How dare you choose to vote for the wrong person. C'mon everyone, the judge is only at -7 right now, let's keep thumbing him down into oblivion so that he really knows how we feel about his democratic decision to cast his vote!

      • It's not about his democratic decision to cast his vote, it's about his lying that he wasn't going to cast one. Seriously, go through his posting history and see if you can come to the conclusion that there was any chance at all that he wasn't going to vote in order to stop TEH EVUL LEFTARDS.

    • You expect anybody to believe you?

  32. Leo Strauss * The Chicago School * The Calgary School *
    ascendant
    in Canada
    today

    • Don't forget public choice theory, one of the most cynical of political theories, which posits that government by its nature is always hijacked by special interest groups, thus exonerating any wrongdoing by conservative special interests while in office.

  33. If he wanted to be in parliament working, he could have made the financial data available on the jet fighter purchase. Which should have been made available anyway.

  34. Many in the mainstream press laughed at Ezra Levant and his magazine for it's blatant right bias.

    But crap like this, constantly spewing from this particular author's keyboard, is no different.

    And this, Mr. Coyne, is why very few bother to buy the print edition.

  35. Lick your wounds well lefties, because it looks like the liberal brand is going to be a little party thats got roots and votes in little Toronto, and thats about it! soft Martin liberals will join team Harper.

  36. Good to see some nice balanced election coverage at Macleans.

    God forbid if the Conservatives were actually leading the Liberals by double digits 5 days before the election and the NDP were clearly in second place.

    Imagine how sad poor Aaron would be.

  37. I have a feeling the media wouldn't be harping on harper so much if he didn't treat them like crap from the start. Sort of a "If this is how you want to treat us, see how we treat you" thing.

  38. Great article AW – one of your best!

  39. Well, you show your Liberal leanings in this column Wherry. Still, it is quite well written none the less. I fear a Harper minority only slightly more than I fear a Harper majority. I have seen no good option in this campaign. The scariest position would be a to have the NDP as the official opposition, but we would at least be guaranteed an election soon if that happens.

  40. What a load of libellous, vicious, mean-spirited, reeking hooey. Had you written this in my years at the UWO Gazette I would have laid some chainsaw editing on your yellow prose.

    There's a book currently in the works which is looking at media bias through the prism of tweets and election writing and I sure hope the author doesn't miss this piece of Soviet-era-quality distorted reality presentation.

    The obliviosity with which you imply that a Prime Minister does nothing between appearances before the jackals opposing him/her in Parliament, and that only there is truth revealed, is truly mind-blowing.

    I look forward to how you are foot-noted in the bias tome. Though not much. Your writing is not worth a footnote, let alone a salary.

    • Obviously the prime minister takes time between appearance before the jacks to appoint to the Senate persons who are under suspicions of electoral fraud. This is no libellous, because it is true, vicious or mean-spirited – or treasurous! It's just an observation on the poor judgment of the prime minister.

  41. I love your addendum. What would Chantal Hébert write about if the Conservatives gain a majority? We've had five years of political 'analysis' based on polling of voting intentions and now that we are being polled to death on our voting intentions I find that they are so all over the map that I dismiss them altogether.

    Which leaves us with the reporting of what happens in parliament; what politicians say or do or avoid doing. You know, noticing that there are a lot of hot-air balloons with the Canada trademark can lead to earth-shattering political developments.

    I think you're doing an excellent job. That we have more information, even what appear to be trivial, is a good thing.

  42. Posted @ Blacktop earlier, on the question of who was responsible for "forcing" the election:
    Yes, I agree you were watching the wrong channel. PM_SHrug engineered this whole thing for months. His absolute refusal to respond to requests for information from the opposition went on for months, even years. He steadily eroded the ability of the opposition to hold the government to account, to the point where they really had no other option than to vote him down. So, technically, the opposition voted no confidence in the government, but it was the very thing PM_SHrug was begging for all along. They just gave him what he wanted. Now he's looking to US to give him what he wants – unfettered power to rule without regard to Parliament or any democratic checks and balances.

    Will we be mad enough to give it to him?

  43. Another try for a MAJORITY … the COVETED majority …

    The FORCED and UNNECESSARY election of 2008 to get the COVETED majority: Part 1.

    Mr Harper claims this election is FORCED … what does a FORCED election (and UNNECESSARY) look like ?

    Back then PM Harper (he was still a PM then, not a KING yet) ABUSED the non confidence vote mechanism in order to try to get the Opposition to call an election so HE could BLAME them for calling it (a continuing PLOY of his … he always BLAMES someone else … like a little kid).

    In the spring of 2008, the then PM Harper (he was still a PM then) had used/ABUSED non confidence votes (like the SWORD of a DRAGON SLAYER) to RAM/FORCE through over 35 of his BILLs when polls showed he could win a majority. He tried to force the Liberals to trigger an election when Canadians did not want one, he stole ALL OUR RIGHTS by making all votes for an election and not the important BILLS before OUR MPS (that represent 2/3rds of us), he basically rejected the minority Canadians had given him (it has always been Harper who threatens elections).

    And when this failed to get the Liberals to trigger an election, Mr Harper called it himself claiming to the GG that Parliament was not working (true its was not working for Canadians but it worked quite well for Mr Harper RAMMING all his BILLs through with non confidence votes, over 35 times) and WE all saw what a FRAUD his 4 year election Law was (and all his BILLS died, later he blamed the Liberals and the Senate).

    Of course that led to his RUN AWAY to HIDE scheme 2 months after the election to avoid a non confidence where the Opposition actually decided to take him down (this is when HE became a KING, only a KING can RUN AWAY TO HIDE from a NC vote that the Opposition has ALREADY PUBLICLY announced they will DEFEAT you on since a PM must always maintain the CONFIDENCE of the HOUSE, HE DIDN'T).

    HE tried to FORCE an election over 35 times using Government non confidence vote which are usually ONLY used on the Budget or money/finance Bills to FORCE an election, to make it look like the Opposition had FORCED an election, he them broke his own law …

    Are WE all SHEEP now ?

    Is this how you EARN a MAJORITY ?

    TIME to EXIT the Harper FISH.

    Yea.

  44. NEWSPEAK Warning: BLOC = BOO.

    He did it before, he is doing it again … the BLOC BOOGIEMAN … Mr Harper is SINGING I got a TICKET TO RIDE (the BLOC) …

    “Isn't that wonderful? A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc—corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration.” Mr Harper repeats his BLOC = BOO PROPAGANDA in SURREY BC (risking National Unity but so what).

    Was that this week ?

    NO, it was in the 2004 ELECTION … yea … Harper has used the BLOC = BOO PROPAGANDA for years.

    A TICKET TO RIDE in 2004.

    Well, it didn't happen in 2004 UNLESS you count Mr Harper's ATTEMPT to become the PM after the 2004 election with the BLOC signature on a LETTER to the GG without an ELECTION.

    He runs around claiming its the Liberals YET he is the one who did it (he claimed the Liberals will do it before and after HE DOES IT).

    PROPAGANDA works.

    ARE WE ALL SHEEP NOW ?

    Soon Mr Harper will be SINGING BACK IN THE USSR if HE wins a MAJORITY … building a POLICE/PRISON STATE as fast as he can say BLOC …. I mean BOO.

    PS It saved him in Dec 2008 too with the 1st PROROGATION … BLOC = BOO … I got a TICKET TO RIDE … yea …

    Yea, PLOYS to win elections (BLOC, SEPARATISTS, NOT A REAL LEADER, JUST VISITING, I SING BEATLES, LADY GAGA Born this Way, ETC.)

    … its 2011 YET it FEELS like we are going back to the DARK AGES.

    TIME to EXIT the Harper FISH BOWL.

    Yea.

  45. You know, as much as I'm not an NDP supporter, I can understand why the collapse of the BLOC is giving them so much wind in their sails nationally.

    It gives people a sense of permission to shake things up, and a sense of hope that a true national consensus may exist.

    All we've heard from the LPC and CPC for the past five years is intense negativity on every possible issue.

    I had high hopes that the LPC was going to push their platform in a far more positive way, telling us what they'd do and how, rather than devolving yet again into the negative attacks.

    But they didn't, and I think they blew it entirely. Harper has a solid voter base that is unshakable apparently, but beyond this the majority oppose him, and they could've cashed in on this. Instead it's the NDP.

    The collapse of the BLOC and the withering of the LPC is good for progressive voters in many ways, though I'd prefer the LPC had been on the winning side of that because I do have concerns about Layton's ability to actually govern through the steep learning curve he'll face.

    There's a big difference between being in opposition versus government as he may soon discover.

  46. http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,6931749

    Some of us are simply realists who understand these sorts of things happen. Hey, probably it's a consequence of our parliamentary system in one way or another, and I would certainly be all for parliamentary and democratic reform in this country. But guess what, if Jack Layton became PM for the next 5 years, Mikewsky would be nipping at his heels about this "scandal" and that "scandal" and Wherry would still be writing about whoever the Liberal Leader is like a head over heels high school girl. So, for some of us, it comes down to party policy and, horror of horrors, local candidate. Despite Harper's unfortunate denial that we would ever go into deficit, I support his plan to get us out of that deficit as soon as possible and the delaying of new programs until we are out of that deficit. I don't necessarily support the new prisons, but to be honest, I have no idea what the state of our current prisons are (the one in Kingston looks pleasant enough). All that being said, I have already been convinced that Harper eats at least two kitten with his eggs every morning, and all I can say is thank goodness he doesn't eat puppies as well! That would be absolutely unacceptable.

  47. Another typical Wherry post. Ironic isn't it? Wherry complaining about Harper's predictable bland speeches, while he himself writes the same predicatable bland blog entries.

    Word of advice, Aaron. Come the evening of May 2nd, you and your partner should remove all sharp objects from your immediate vicinity. I don't think you are going to have a good night.

    • The irony is your apparent lack of awareness that there is such a thing as "another typical JamesHalifax post".

  48. Excellent description, Mr. Wherry. I sense just a bit more seriousness here than in your usual detached, sardonic accounts of Q P. But if you want to know the answer to your question (why he gets away with it), you just have to look at the distanced mocking tone that regularly characterizes those articles, and those of your colleagues here and elsewhere.

    Earnestness and engagement is so unhip. It's at least in part this stance that makes it unnecessary for the PM to engage a question. Coyne's or Well's occasional passionate outbursts aside, the tone that most of you set is, unvaryingly, one that is just as glibly cynical. So welcome to the world you've helped create. Now, even if you get to ask a question, Harper and company will breeze by it, and you will no doubt continue to be more concerned with making yourselves look good by laughing it off and making it seem like you always expected him not to answer. Being snubbed makes you look like a loser. Looking like you don't give a damn and expect important questions to go unanswered is way more cool. What you guys forget is that it isn't about you and how you look. You should be asking questions on behalf of some constituency – like the public. They do deserve answers. But I don't expect this to change. More likely, the little corner of the world in which you get to indulge in making yourselves look cooler than these other guys is about to get a whole lot smaller.

  49. An answer to a direct question from Harper?
    Don't hold your breath.
    Truth is not a word in his vocabulary !
    His forte is skirting the questions with rhetoric.
    Trust him?
    I think not.

  50. The sad thing about Harper's attitude is that many Canadians, especially those out west, don't seem to care.

    I lived out West and I have to confess, I have never understood this willingness to lie down like a kicked dog in order to be loyal to someone who so obviously does not deserve it.

    Some will disagree with me, but to them I say: which promises that Harper has made to you over the past decade has he actually fulfilled?

  51. The media and their followers remind me of Stepford wives, unthinking minions with their hands out for more land more. Those who disagree are too busy at work, paying taxes to give your drivel any thought. See you on election day. Thomas Jefferson would be appalled at the parasitic nature of so many citizens today. He was a firm believer in working for a living and to use his quotes to justify maggots is stomach turning.

  52. I fail to see the relevance.

  53. Idiocy? You might recall that Hitler was actually pretty good at winning elections. But judging by your stated definition of "a great leader", perhaps you don't see any problem.

  54. Freedom of Information, health care, accountability, justice, civil rights, human rights….etc.

    You won’t know what you got till it’s gone, take paradise, put up a parking lot…

  55. This article is spot on accurate!

    That’s why they are called, Cons.!

  56. Stephen Harper would have been better off chroma-keying his audience onto green boards placed behind him.

  57. Thanks, It is very sad to think that the Conservative Party, led by a man so unscrupulous could reshape our government.

Sign in to comment.